Tuesday, 23 August 2016

All the sand in Rio

This year I’ve had the novel experience of watching the summer Olympics in the summer (although it’s winter in Rio, don’t get me started).  I’ve found myself torn, between watching the Olympics and soaking up the fleeting sunshine in London.  More often than not, the sunshine has won.  I’ve still managed to watch a lot of the Olympics – from the obvious swimming, gymnastic and track events through to snippets of team rhythmic gymnastics and the modern pentathlon. 

More importantly, I managed to knit my Sand Layers shawl while soaking up the rays, and occasionally watching the Olympics (which makes sense as the shawl was my ravellenics project).

It’s a very simple pattern, combining some slip stitch rows with mostly garter stitch, and yes, the rows get long, but it’s very simple knitting (which is not to say that I didn’t make any mistakes!)

The Travel Knitter Tanami (camel and silk blend) is simply divine, a deliciously rich cranberry red, and pairs beautifully with the Kettle Yarn Co Beyul (yak, silk and wool blend), which is a pink dyed onto a non-white base, and the depth of the pink is fantastic – and slightly variegated. 

Surprisingly it didn’t block significantly longer (only a few inches at either end), but did grow in depth a good amount. I love pink and red together, and look forward to wearing this deliciously soft shawl all winter long.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Exploring Krakow

We managed to schedule our holiday in lovely Krakow for the week before World Youth Day (incidentally, we ended up in Madrid the week after that city hosted World Youth Day in 2011, so maybe there’s a pattern to all of this).  The sun shone (mostly) and the city sparkled, and I took a million photos. 

We did a lot of wandering, eating and sitting where the sunshine met the shade (me in the sun, Geoff in the shade), and I’ve already blogged about the food (spoiler alert – all delicious).

We did rev ourselves up enough to visit a couple of museums, a cathedral and a castle.  Geoff’s favourite  was the armoury room at the Castle. The armoury had a pretty good selection of ancient guns and shields and the like, but the best were the swords from across Old Europe. From the curved sabres of the Ottoman Empire, to the still gleaming ornate swords of the Prussians, and plenty more, it was like a Eurovision Sword Contest. Britain, nil poi! The cannons were pretty sweet too.

While I was impressed with the jewellery in the armoury room, my favourite was the bell tower that is inside the Cathedral – it’s an optional extra (along with the royal crypts) in the Cathedral.  There are 2 sets of incredibly steep wooden stairs, though each is only a few flights high and there are landings to rest at on the way.  You have to remember to duck under the beams, and the bells in places, as you climb, and then you come to the top with quite a good view over Krakow. 

I also really enjoyed parts of the exhibitions at MOCAK (contemporary art museum) – the ‘Medicine in Art’ didn’t really appeal, but the Andy Warhol installation was cool to explore, and their permanent collection is impressive.  Even the building itself is interesting, if a bit brutal.

We also went to Schindler’s Factory – an expectedly bleak exploration of the Nazi occupation and oppression of Poland, and it touched on the Soviet involvement as well.  

Probably the most moving aspect was over at the former Gestapo headquarters where we stood in the cells used by the Nazis.  The small museum attached told ‘everyday’ stories of arrests, torture and deportation, and was a sad, but important, experience. 

Finally we took the opportunity to step inside almost every church that we walked past, and were amazed to find beautifully ornate buildings just dotted throughout the city.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

An impromptu Tokyo Shawl

You may be familiar with the Tokyo Shawl.  A lovely pattern by Marianne Isager using the Isager yarn, of course.  Only available in kit form, in designated colours, at some knitting shows or perhaps online in some places. Also, confusingly available in different kits (as in different numbers of colours) depending on what country you buy it from. It seemed expensive (I have a natural aversion to kits) and none of the colour combinations were right for me.

I spend a good amount of time looking at pictures of the shawl, and similar type patterns, and just decided to go for it.  I zoomed in on images, I counted rows, I read comments and blogs for hints about how to make it work.  And I did.  I made mine narrower, longer, and with an i-cord edge.  I also used way more colours. And I really like it. 

The yarns I used were all Isager – the Spinni wool, and the alpaca lace.  I bought little bags of colours, all mixed up, and then bought some of the alpaca to have a bright (the pink) and a light (the cream).  

I think it will go with everything, because it already contains almost every colour.  It’s also blanket-like, which is my preferred scarf/shawl size.  Longer than I am tall, and oh so light and lofty, it just floats around my shoulders.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


I recently test sewed the Gable Top for Jennifer Lauren Handmade.  Unsurprisingly, Jen gives a better decription of the pattern than I can:

With a classic 50s-inspired slash neckline, long or short sleeves and a long-line body for extra comfort, The Gable Top will become your new favourite go-to knit top pattern. Gable is perfect for wearing all year round — layer with dresses and cardigans or wear it on its own with 3/4 skinny jeans or a high-waisted skirt à la Audrey. Gable is not only a stylish weekend basic but can be easily dressed up and added to your office outfit rotation. Made with comfy stretch knit, Gable is a quick and easy sew that doesn’t use much fabric
and turns out perfectly every time.

I used some heavy tee shirt weight fabric for my first go at this pattern, purchased at the very affordable Rolls & Rems on Seven Sisters Road in Islington in 2 shades of pink, for a casual version of the tee.  The fabric seems to have pretty good recovery and stretch – and Jen has laid out a good deal of information about how to choose the right kind of knit fabric in the pattern, and in her blog posts about another pattern she has published that also uses knit fabric.

The pattern only takes 3 pieces – front, back and sleeve.  My favourite aspect is that there is no neckline binding, which is probably my least favourite part of sewing with knits because I never know how long to make it, or how much to stretch it to get it to fit the neckline.  Do let me know if you have any suggestions on this!

I carefully cut the pattern to match the stripes – I did so by ensuring that the underarm corner on the pattern ended at the same stripe on the front and back.  The weight of the fabric meant that it was relatively easy to sew and maintain the stripe matching.  I did not make any effort to match the stripes on the sleeve, and quite frankly I’m not sure how I would achieve that!

Sewing the neckline was a bit tricky – though it’s difficult to know how low to place it (though there is only a range of about 1.5cm) without trying it on with the side seams finished.  In the future I will sew down the neckline before I attach the sleeves. 

I find the top much more flattering than I expected, though I hemmed it quite a bit shorter than the pattern suggests, as I think that creates a nicer line on my body. 

Changes for a future version
  1. Less close fitting through the waist, though not by much.  I think I will take away most of the hourglass shaping as the top currently has negative ease on my waist, and I would prefer closer to zero ease.  
  2. Slightly less wide across the shoulders - probably about 1cm on either side 
  3. Try to bring the neck down lower - apparently other testers managed this, but I didn't even try!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Oh, the food in Krakow

Geoff and I spent 4 lovely nights in Krakow at the end of July, relaxing in the beautiful city, eating delicious food and soaking up the sunshine.  We rented a studio apartment, close to the centre of the old city and about 10 minutes walk from Kazmierz (the old Jewish quarter) and we explored our surrounds from there. 

The most important part of any holiday is the food, and we were not disappointed by any of our choices.  We were bemoaning that we were running out of meals, and wanted to try more places, and return to those that we had already enjoyed.

Surprisingly we had some delicious sushi.  I say surprisingly, as Krakow is as far inland as possible in Poland and I didn’t see any Japanese people anywhere, so I’d be interested to understand the connection there.  We had onigiri from a stand in a park, and tempura maki in Schwer Judah (a popular food truck area).  

We also had potatoes in almost every way imaginable, and enjoyed them all.  Chimera, a salad bar restaurant just off the main square, was a great lunch option with 4 ‘salads’ for about £3.  The salad choices included quiches, cooked vegetables, some seafood and some dishes I’d normally consider a salad. 

On the traditional front, we ate pierogi at a little restaurant where the ladies behind the counter fulfilled all the stereotypes – short, round, in traditional dress, wearing kerchiefs over their hair and very smiley – and served us mushroom and cabbage pierogi that was amazing, and cheese pierogi that could have helpfully have been marked as ‘dessert’, but we enjoyed them regardless.  And from another Krakow tradition, we ate hummus, and drank Israeli wine – too sweet, won’t try that again. 

And we ate bagels.  And the Krakow version of a bagel, called an Obwarzanek Krakowski 

Chimney cakes were a revelation, like long hollow donuts, with fillings on the inside of the tubes. The caramel and almond filling just edged out the peanut butter filling to my mind.  (Originally from the Hungarian speaking region of Romania, these cakes are a great example of free movement across Europe). 

 We shopped at the local food market as well, and Geoff enjoyed the variety of smoked pork products on offer, and I gorged on the bountiful raspberries. 

More on the coffee in another post (trust me, it’s worthy of its own missive).